HOLGATE -- It's official ... the village of Holgate has "Tiger Fever."
Drive through this Henry County community and you'll see downtown windows painted purple and gold, banners hung all around, and signs along the roadways to prove it's true. Thanks to the Holgate High School girls basketball team securing its fourth trip to state in school history, this condition is running rampant throughout the town.
"It's just so exciting, it's been seven years since our Tigers, boys or girls, have made it out of districts," stated Lynn Clady, a Holgate Athletic Boosters officer and aunt to current player Jillian Clady. "I guess we got spoiled when we made it to state four times in seven years (boys and girls from 2001-07). This team has brought a needed boost to our community."
Clady, who is involved in selling "spirt wear" with the boosters, came up with a Final Four logo for T-shirts that are currently on sale. She also knows a thing or two about trips to state. Her son, Drew, was on the 2004 championship team, her nephew, Jared Clady, was on the 2007 state team, and her sister, Tina, played on the 1979 girls team that made the trip.
"This team is so much fun to watch," Clady said. "We have a lot of talent and they're great kids. We all believe they can do this, they can win both games and come home with the title."
In downtown Holgate, Sager's Bar is the place where many of legal age have gone to celebrate Holgate victories for 40 years. Owner Don Sager has been going to basketball games for over 20 years, and during girls contests he can be found right in the front row.
"I really enjoy watching the girls play and I enjoy sitting in the front row," admitted Sager. "I probably won't be able to get front row down there (in Columbus), but you never know.
"This group of girls has been together for a long time," added Sager, who goes to games with his friends Frank Ordway, Mike Holtsberry and Bill Bates. "They've worked very hard and it's nice to see them get rewarded for all that hard work."
At the local Subway franchise, manager Christie Theisen and all who work there have played a small, but special part, in helping the team get to state.
"The last two weeks we've fed the team on Wednesdays before their tournament games," Theisen said. "Subway has also donated subs and cookies to the girls for their trip to Columbus, so in a small way, we feel like we're a part of this. Everyone in town is talking about the girls making it to state, we hope they can bring it (a title) home so we can all celebrate."
Across the street at Serendipity Flowers & Gifts, Maggie Westrick spent Tuesday morning dressing up "Precious," the store's mannequin. She dressed "Precious" in Holgate team colors, including a purple and gold scarf and a basketball, to celebrate the run to state. Excitement in town is high according to Westrick, whose mother-in-law, Debbie, owns the shop.
"This town is ecstatic right now ... when 603 tickets are sold in a short amount of time for the state semifinal game, that kind of speaks for itself," Westrick said. "We're not a big community, but we always support the kids. To see the town and surrounding communities rally together behind this team is really, really cool."
Back across the street and just down the road, the sign on the Shell gas station reads: "Go Lady Tigers At State! Bring Home The Win," with a tiger paw at the end of the sign.
Store manager Mike Tijerina is expecting sales to be brisk on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, but business to drop off dramatically after that. In fact, all of the businesses in town aren't expecting much foot traffic on Thursday, with the Holgate girls scheduled to face Zanesville Rosecrans in the state semifinals beginning at 6 p.m.
"I think we'll do all of our big business on Wednesday night and Thursday morning when people here are getting ready to leave town. We're not expecting too business much after that," Tijerina said with a smile. "Everyone here is hoping the girls can go down there and bring home a state championship. Holgate is a small community and it would mean a lot to everyone, and we all just wish them the best."
A community send-off at Holgate High School was rescheduled for the team Tuesday evening due to the late winter snow storm this morning. Fans are also asked to dress for a "Purple Out" on Thursday for the state semifinal contest.